Why was Michael Hinks, president of the National Operatic and Dramatic Association these last seven months, known as Whistler in his younger days?

Because his very first role as an amateur thespian was that of Ketterl - pronounced unavoidably as Kettle - in a production of White Horse Inn in Derby 57 years ago.

He shared the memory with members of Bromsgrove Operatic Society on Friday night after watching their version of the show - and revealed that this was the first time he had seen it since his début as the non-speaking, non-singing servant to the Emperor in 1951.

Standing at more than 6ft, he was indeed a mighty, if silent, minion - and so was his successor last week in a show that has virtually disappeared from the amateur calendar along with its rousing music. The even-taller-standing BOS chairman Ian Cox was the latest Ketterl - keeping quiet in a costume that had cost £17 to hire, with a (non-working) gun that had cost £25, in an unspoken sartorial explanation of why silence was most certainly golden.

But at least when Ian had to miss Thursday's performance after an out-patient visit to hospital there had been no need to find a replacement. As far as the audience was concerned, it was, er, watching this space without realising it.

* St Augustine's Musical Theatre Company's Red Hot and Cole will be launched on June 2 without chorus member Gill Salter.

It is a show that does not come round very often, and Gill is going to miss it. She has a leg in plaster after twisting her knee quite badly by falling off a snowmobile on a family holiday in Iceland and then dislocating it when she slipped on some water on the kitchen floor back home.

She puts it far more succinctly, explaining that she has gone from one cast to another. It's a thought that any headline-writer would be proud to pinch.

"I was one of the ensemble, sipping Champagne and creating a party atmosphere, but now I won't be getting the plaster off until halfway through the week", she told me. "I'm going to enjoy the show from the audience."

Veronica Walsh's production at Solihull Library Theatre will find Chris Stanford following accepted practice by playing the parts both of socialite Elsa Maxwell and brassy, larger-than-life musical queen Ethel Merman.

John Castle plays the central role of Cole Porter in a show that is awash with the maestro's music.

* Highbury Little Theatre, Sutton Coldfield, is the intimate setting for a visiting production of 'Allo 'Allo. Local group From The Top Theatre Company is re-enacting the problems of wartime France, with Paul Wescott playing the hard-pressed café owner René Artois and Alison Cahill his wife Edith.

Director Mary Dodd is a long-standing member at Highbury.

The television show on which the play is based broke all the rules by having characters who spoke accentuated English instead of sounding normal, which is what people in their own country usually do, but it did so with hilarious intent and got away with it magnificently.

From The Top, based at Camwell, half-way between Sutton Coldfield and Four Oaks, will welcome new members who contact Debbie Crump on 07976 555670. It rehearses at Quinney Hall, Bassetts Pole, on Tuesdays from 7.30-10 pm.

Meanwhile, the group is ensuring that it's all action at Highbury until Saturday.

* Since Wythall Theatre Company came on the scene 50 years ago, it has slotted 136 productions into its CV - and next month will see it unveiling its 137th at the Dove-house Theatre, Solihull.

The chosen show is R C Sherriff's Journey's End, the thought-provoking play - 30 years older than the group - that covers four days in the trenches in the First World War.

Considerable research has preceded the production, which the company wants to be an appropriate reminder of the thousands who perished on the battlefield.

The play, with a cast of nine, is directed by the only woman involved - Joy Rodgers (no relation to Richard, see below). Joy has been with Wythall for more than 10 years and has wanted to stage Journey's End since she studied it for A Level. It will be at the Dovehouse Theatre from June 11-14.

Soon afterwards, the group will be celebrating its half-century at Park Hall Community Centre, Silver Street, Wythall, with an informal ploughman's evening.

The date is Friday, June 27, and the group is anxious to make contact with as many former members as possible for the function, which will be at Wythall Community Centre, Park Hall, Silver Street, Wythall. The entertainment will consist of monologues, poetry and excerpts from bygone productions.

Estelle Shutkever, for the company, said, "We're contacting as many people as we can and we hope that they will contact other people in a sort of Chinese Whispers."

The group chairman, Marcus Bridger, stands by to hear from anyone intending to be present. He may be reached on 0121 733 7048 or 07967 693 360.

* Those aim-high amateurs, the Midlands Music Makers, will be presenting Carmen at Birmingham's Crescent Theatre this autumn - in the company of the Queen's Park Sinfonia, one of the region's leading young orchestras.

Lorraine Payne, who has the dual responsibilities of chairman and the central role and has sung many principal parts in her 17 years with the company, says, "The production has been made possible, thanks to the third year of sponsorship by Stoford Developments, of Birmingham, which also supported last year's production of Verdi's A Masked Ball. It has also enabled us to obtain a specially adapted score by Eric Wetherell, the former BBC conductor."

The production will run from November 4-8.

I was surprised to run into my Post colleague of many years, Richard Edmonds, when I visited Birmingham's Crescent Theatre for the excellent production of The Assassin by MDCC Theatre. Having recently renewed his membership, he was doing a stint behind the bar.

He will be involved in the Crescent Players' outdoor touring production of A Midsummer Night's Dream which opens on June 24 at Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Audience with Murder, Coleshill Drama Group, Coleshill Town Hall (to Saturday).
Blithe Spirit, Really Good Theatre Company, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (to Saturday).
The Full Monty, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (May 23 & 24; & 27-31).
The Secret Life of Henry and Alice, Highbury Little Theatre, Sutton Coldfield (May 26-31).
In at the Deep End, Norbury Theatre, Droitwich (May 28-31).
The Breath of Life, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (May 31-June 7)